Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24)

St. Martin de Porres is said to have reconciled a dog, a cat, and a rat to eat together.  It is a charming story that demonstrates the point of today’s Scripture readings.  Natural enemies will live in peace with the coming of the Lord.  Martin himself brought rich and poor; black, white and indigenous; religious and lay people together.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, he may be seen as “another Christ.”

Today’s first reading changes the expectation for the Messiah.  He is not to a warrior but a wise man.  He comes not to destroy foes with his power but to reconcile them with wisdom.  His attraction will not be limited to sons and daughters of Israel but will be felt throughout the earth.  The gospel hints at the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision in Jesus.  He wields no sword and overpowers no outlaw.  Nevertheless, he shows himself as the Messiah, the Son of God.  He heals and forgives.  He enlightens the dull-minded and confers salvation on those who trust in him.

We may find the feats of Jesus as hard to believe as Martin’s reconciling his convent’s animals.  They probably were embellished in the formation of the gospels.  But we must not deny them.  They are testimony that Jesus was radically different from other humans.  He was God’s Son.  By following him, we too can move beyond the hostilities of the world.  Following him, we will have the peace of eternal life.   

Monday, November 30, 2020

 Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

 (Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22)

 In his apostolic exhortation on evangelization, Pope Paul VI wrote: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”  Little is said about the apostle Andrew in the gospels outside of the stories of his being called by Jesus.  But as Paul VI said, the witness that he gives in those calls speaks forcefully through the ages.

Peter and Andrew are probably like most fishermen.  They love the sea not only as the source of food for the table but also for the freedom it brings.  But the call of Jesus is more powerful than the attraction of the sea.  They tarry not a minute but respond to the call at once.  More than any kind of curiosity on their part, such witness indicates Jesus' charisma that he will fulfill their deepest longings.

 We need to give witness as well.  It starts with how we present ourselves.  Do our homes feature a cross identifying Jesus as he who brings peace to our lives?  Do we mention Jesus as the source of our success or do we talk about ourselves as all important?  Exhibiting a cross and invoking Jesus’ name tells other of his importance and provides us standards according to which we should pattern our lives.

Sunday, November 29, 2020



(Isaiah 63: 16-17,19,64: 2-7; I Corinthians 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 33-37)

Can't it be said that the world is now waiting for its savior? Today everyone yearns for salvation in the form of a vaccine for Covid. We are tired of covering our faces, confining ourselves to the house, and suspecting every stranger as a carrier of the virus. However, the vaccine will be a false messiah. Even if it saves us from Covid, it will only return us to the same selfishness and greed that have prevailed in our time.

First, let us recognize how the pandemic has revealed some flaws in our lifestyles. With confinement, families have spent more time together with the result that adolescents feel less anxiety. The many activities of each member of the family had produced a sense of facing the challenges of life alone. Also, by taking classes with Zoom, children have not had to get up early in the morning. More sleep has reduced stress. This is not to say that the pandemic is a good thing and that the vaccine will not be helpful.  But we must recognize that the vaccine will not deliver us from our most serious problems.

The first reading today is from the third part of the book of the prophet Isaiah. It was penned 2,500 years ago, but it sounds like it could have been typed last year. People have turned away from God's commandments. Where God has said, "You shall not kill," abortion is increasingly acceptable. Where He has said, "You will keep he Lord's day holy," mass attendance continues to decline. It is not necessary to comment on the violations against the sixth and ninth commandments in our time. The reading has its finger on the pulse of our time when it asks the Lord: "Why ... do you let our hearts harden to the point of not being afraid of you?" For this reason, it asks God to come down from heaven though it means tearing open the skies and shaking the mountains.

We believe that God heeded the prophet's cry. In the second reading, Saint Paul tells how Jesus Christ died and rose again to give his followers a “spiritual gift.” We have the grace of the Holy Spirit to live for God even more than for ourselves.

Before his death Jesus said that he was going to return to lead his disciples to eternal life. In anticipation of this event, he tells us in the gospel today to “watch” and “be alert.” This does not mean that we leave our jobs to watch like a sailor in a crow's nest. Rather, Jesus wants us to watch for him as students awaiting the visit of the school principal. That is, he wants us to spend our time advancing in truth, love, and goodness.

There is a story that helps us understand the purpose of Jesus here. Once a legislature was in session when a storm arosein the heavens. The clouds were so dark and the wind so strong that some legislators said the end of the world had come. A group moved that they end the session to return to their homes. But the president of the legislature spoke up.  He said, “If it is not the end, we are going to appear ridiculous leaving our work unfinished. And if it is the end, it would be better if the Lord sees us accomplishing our tasks. I say: 'bring in the candles.'" Thus we want to prepare for the coming of the Lord by doing his will.

Advent always has two goals. At the beginning of the season we want to remember the promise of Jesus to come again. He came once in the flesh to save us from sin. At the end of time he will come in glory to lead his disciples to eternal life. The second objective is to prepare for Christmas. The mystery of the Incarnation overwhelms our imagination. God, the Creator and Sovereign, wanted to humble himself to show us the extent of his love! It is worth a month of lockdown to prepare ourselves for this great event.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 20:1-4.11-21.2; Luke 21:29-33)

A few months ago Christopher Nolan’s new film Tenet was released.  It is action sci-fi that challenges the mind as it awes the emotions.  The opening scene takes place in the future.  It may or may not really happen depending upon the hero’s ability to control the plot.  Casual viewers will likely find the movie bizarre.  But Christopher Nolan fans will grope assiduously for its meaning.  The Book of Revelation presents a similar challenge although it should never be casually dismissed. 

Revelation was written to shore up the hope of persecuted Christians.  Its narration of the future cannot be taken literally.  The thousand years which today’s passage references has long passed without the promised culmination of goodness.  This does not mean that the book is mistaken.  Rather the author only speculated when and what kind of events would the triumph of goodness be.  He is right in assuring that it will take place.

We can be sure that God’s love will ultimately conquer evil because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  We have seen other evidence as well like, for example, the Church surviving two thousand years despite many attempts to dismantle it and its own folly.  For now we want to redouble our efforts to live righteous lives.  We want to become partakers of the new reality the reading promises.  

Thursday, November 26, 2020

 Thanksgiving Day

(Sirach 50:22-24; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19)

In one episode of “The Simpsons” brash Bart leads the family in grace before dinner. He speaks up, “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing!”  Perhaps some feel a similar unwillingness to thank God today.  It is not that they feel that they earned everything which they have.  No, people have difficulty giving thanks today because it has been a difficult year.  Covid-19 confined most everyone to their homes for a substantial time.  Most, as well, have lost an elderly relative or friend who has succumbed during the pandemic.

There is also a failure to give thanks in today’s gospel. Nine of the ten men cured of leprosy do not return to thank Jesus for their cure.  Their failure stems from the errant thought that it is not worth the effort to find Jesus.  After all, they have lived in isolation for so long that they need to get on with life.  The cured leper, on the other hand, recognizes something more important than enjoying good health.  He sees the moral urgency to thank his benefactor.  Before he goes to rejoice with family and friends, he gives Jesus the thanks that is due.

The year has been hard in many respects, but we – like the healed leper – should be grateful.  There have been blessings.  One man says that the time to himself has enabled him to read thirty books.  A psychologist explains how adolescents have profited by being with their parents more.  We remain indebted to God for our lives here and now and for the promise of eternal life.  We do well to give Him thanks every day but especially this day designated for thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 15:1-4; Luke 21:12-19)

 Preachers used to talk a lot about the wrath of God.  The topic easily captured people’s imaginations.  Also, Scripture references it enough to make it seem very important. Today's first reading refers to it quite directly.  Seven angels hold the last seven plagues of God's fury.

However, we must be very cautious in using human attributes to describe God.  He (forgive this gender reference, but this is Scripture’s predilection) is beyond human emotion since he is pure Spirit.  Indeed, God is beyond our ability to describe Him.  Yet a few qualities stand out because Jesus uses them in speaking of his Father.  God is just, for example.  Indeed, justice is what Revelation is trying to intimate when it speaks of God’s wrath.  For human sin, justice seems to require the imposition of severe punishments.  But God’s justice is not a tit for tat.  Its aim is to make humans just.  Although it sometimes punishes, its primary tool is mercy.  Both the Old and the New Testaments constantly show God acting mercifully.  He wants His people to consider imitating His ways.

We cannot imitate God by becoming angry.  Although anger is not necessarily sinful, neither is it an attribute of God.  We do imitate God when we show mercy, but not mercy as permissiveness.  No, care for others requires a willingness to pardon their transgressions.  However, unless it holds them accountable to improvement, it fails to testify to God’s love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

 Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs

(Revelation 14-14-19; Luke 21:5-11)

For more than five hundred years until 1963 whenever a new pope was crowned, he would be dramatically reminded of the closeness of death.  As he proceeded from the sacristy of St. Peter’s Basilica, the master of ceremonies would kneel before him with rapidly burning flax.  The master would then say, “Sic transit gloria mundi” (“there goes the glory of the world”).  The pope was being reminded that, like the flax, his time is short.  Despite having the highest position in the Church, he too will die and face judgment for his sins.

As this month of the dead wanes, we receive strong reminders of death’s inevitability in today’s mass readings.  Revelation reminds us that the world’s inhabitants can die and be judged in an instant.  In the gospel Jesus tells the people not to be overly impressed by the temple’s beauty.  He says that it will fall along with many people.  The lesson of these readings, like the message to new popes, is that we are to trust in God, not in humans.  If death is to be overcome, it will be by the Creator’s power, not by any human one.

The many martyrs of Vietnam testified to their faith in God with their lives. Between 1820 and 1880 between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics in the country either were killed or suffered great hardship.  Today’s feast recalls 117 of these whose cases are documented and who were canonized by Pope St. John XXIII.  They should not be seen as foreign, much less as exotic.  Rather, they are our partners whispering into our ears not to forget that we too will die.

El domingo, 29 de noviembre de 2020


(Isaías 63:16-17.19,64:2-7; I Corintio 1:3-9; Marcos 13:33-37)

¿No se puede decir que el mundo ya está en espera de su salvador?  Hoy en día todos anhelan la salvación en forma de una vacuna para Covid.  Están cansados de cubrir sus caras, de limitarse a la casa, y de sospechar a cada desconocido como portador del virus.  Sin embargo, la vacuna será un mesías falso.  Aunque nos salve del Covid, nos volverá al mismo egoísmo y codicia que han predominado en nuestro tiempo. 

Primero, que reconozcamos cómo la pandemia ha revelado algunas faltas en nuestro estilo de vida.  Con el confinamiento, las familias han pasado más tiempo juntos con el resultado que los adolescentes sienten menos ansiedad.  Las muchas actividades de cada miembro de la familia habían producido el sentido de estar solos enfrentando los retos de la vida. También, por tomar clases con Zoom, los muchachos no han tenido que levantarse temprano en la mañana.  Más sueño ha reducido el estrés.  Esto no es a decir que la pandemia es cosa buena y la vacuna no será provechosa.  Solamente tenemos que reconocer que la vacuna no nos entregará de nuestros problemas más graves.

La primera lectura hoy es de la tercera parte del libro del profeta Isaías.  Fue escrita hace 2500 años, pero suena como pudiera haber escrita el año pasado.  La gente se ha alejado de los mandamientos de Dios.  Donde Dios ha dicho “no matarás”, el aborto es cada vez más aceptable.  Donde ha dicho “mantendrás santo el día del Señor”, la asistencia en la misa sigue disminuyendo.  No es necesario comentar sobre las violaciones contra el sexto y noveno mandamientos en nuestro tiempo.  La lectura tiene su dedo en el pulso de nuestro tiempo cuando pregunta al Señor: “¿Por qué…dejas endurecer nuestro corazón hasta el punto de no temerte?” Por esta razón ello pide a Dios que se presente aunque significa que rasgue los cielos y estremezca a las montañas.

Creemos que Dios hizo caso al grito del profeta.  En la segunda lectura San Pablo cuenta cómo Jesucristo murió y resucitó para dar a sus seguidores los “dones divinos”.  Tenemos la gracia del Espíritu Santo para vivir por Dios y solo entonces por nosotros mismo.

Antes de su muerte Jesús dijo que iba a volver para llevar a sus discípulos a la vida eterna.  En anticipación de este evento, Jesús nos dice en el evangelio hoy que velemos y nos preparemos.  Esto no quiere decir que dejemos a trabajar para velar como un marinero en un nido de cuervo.  Más bien Jesús quiere que velemos para él como alumnos esperando la visita del director de la escuela.  Eso es, quiere que estemos ocupados avanzando en la verdad, el amor, y la bondad.

Hay un cuento que nos ayuda entender el propósito de Jesús aquí.  Una vez los legisladores de un pueblo estaban debatiendo cuando una tormenta se surgió en los cielos.  Las nubes eran tan oscuras y el viento tan fuerte que algunos dijeron que el fin del mundo había llegado.  Un grupo entre ellos movió que terminaran la sesión para volver a sus casas.  Pero el presidente de la legislatura dijo el contrario: “Si no es el fin, vamos a aparecer como ridículos terminando la sesión temprano.  Y si es el fin, sería mejor que el Señor nos vea cumpliendo nuestras tareas.  Yo digo: ‘traigan aquí las velas’".  Así nosotros queremos preparar para la venida del Señor por llevar a cabo sus mandamientos.

Adviento siempre tiene dos objetivos.  En el principio de la temporada queremos recordar la promesa de Jesús para venir de nuevo.  Vino una vez en carne y hueso para salvarnos del pecado.  Al fin del tiempo vendrá en la gloria para llevar a sus discípulos a la vida eterna.  El segundo objetivo es prepararnos para la Navidad.  El misterio de la Encarnación abruma nuestra imaginación.  Dios, el Creador y Soberano, ¡quería humillarse para mostrarnos el extendido de su amor!  Vale un mes de confinamiento para prepararnos a celebrar este gran evento.

Monday, November 23, 2020

 Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 14:1-3.4b-5; Luke 21:1-4)

It has been noted that the poor widow’s offering anticipates Jesus’.  She gives all that she has – “her whole livelihood” – to God in her contribution to the temple treasury.  Jesus will soon offer himself to God on the cross.  Luke records his final words as, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’”

Occasionally we meet people almost as generous as this gospel’s poor widow.  I worked in a parish once where the laundry woman would buy my dinner on Saturday evening after mass.  It was not steak from a fancy restaurant, but it was supererogatory, more than necessary.  I was deeply humbled by the generous act repeated every week.  It was not that she did it for me.  I know that she did it for Christ whom I have the privilege to represent at mass.  I was humbled because I would be reluctant to do it every week for anyone.

In simple ways the gospel widow acts as an apostle.  She shows the generosity God expects of us.  Her story also demonstrates how God notices our every good deed.

Sunday, November 22, 2020


Ezekiel 14:11-12.15-17; I Corinthians 15:20-26.28; Matthew 25:31-46)

The elections are over. The United States has chosen its president. The people will have José Biden as their head of government for the next four years. President Biden will not reign over the people with absolute authority. His power will be limited by the constitution of the republic and its laws.   He is not a king.

Now we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. By naming Christ our king we are submitting to his absolute authority in all things. We are saying to him: "We will do whatever you ask because we are your subjects." We are confident that he will not exploit his power because he has proven himself as a shepherd king as in the first reading. He will supply all of our needs and heal our wounds.

Jesus, our King, has expressed his will for us in the Gospels of the last two Sundays. Two weeks ago he taught us how to be proactive as we await his return. We are to shine our lamps before people with good works. Then last Sunday he warned us not to shirk from employing our talents. We are to use our time, treasure, and abilities for the sake of his kingdom.

In the Gospel today Jesus has words of comfort for us, his missionary disciples. He addresses the nations; that is, those peoples that still do not accept him as their king. He tells them that they will be judged worthy of his kingdom as long as they help us, his brothers and sisters. If they give with a glass of water when we are thirsty or visit us when we are imprisoned for proclaiming Christ, they will be accepted into his kingdom. There are many stories of non-Christians helping Christians. Fifty years ago it was common to hear how Jews would do the work of Christians at Christmas so that they could attend Mass or enjoy Christmas dinner with their families. Today there are stories of Muslims saving the lives of Christians from extremists. Last year, a Muslim driver is reported to have saved the lives of a group of Christians. He had them in his car when a gang of armed extremists signaled him to stop. The driver quickly passed them causing them to shoot at his car.  Fortunately all escaped safely.

We help non-Christians, and they help us. So what is the difference between us and them? It has to do with the type of help that is given. Our help should not be limited to the corporal works. Rather, they should include spiritual works as much as possible. Besides visiting the sick and feeding the hungry, we must instruct those who do not know how to respect others and forgive injuries. A French bishop in Algeria built libraries and educational centers for the disabled. These institutions were used mostly by Muslims. Eventually the prelate, Bishop Pierre Claverié, was assassinated by the extremists. However, he left a legacy of love and respect among Muslims. At his funeral the Muslims called him their bishop.

This is the last time we are going to listen to regular readings from the Gospel according to Matthew for a long while. Hopefully this past year's readings have left us with a better sense of what a missionary disciple is. It is learning from Jesus to be innocent as doves and merciful as mothers of families. It is to befriend others and to share with them the kingdom. It is having Jesus as a brother and not worrying about how we will endure. For he is with us as certain as a shepherd takes his sheep to pasture. Jesus is with us until the end of time.

Friday, November 20, 2020

 Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 10:8-11; Luke 19:45-48)

In no other gospel does Jesus act more peaceably than in Luke.  It is true that the Lucan Jesus also speaks of bringing a fire to the earth and of separating parents from children.  But more generally he acts with gentleness.  Only in Luke does Jesus heal the servant’s ear in Gethsemane.  Only in Luke does he stop on his way to Calvary to console the women of Jerusalem.  It is typical then of the Lucan Jesus not to use a whip to drive the merchants from the temple.  Indeed, he is typically more concerned about preserving prayer in the temple than about cleansing it of merchandising.

Also, the Lucan Jesus typically gathers large crowds of people around himself.  They will soon turn on him by calling for his crucifixion, as many as three times.  But in the end they make a second about-face.  After seeing him reward the repentant thief and commend himself to the Father, they beat their breasts in repentance.  In today’s gospel the crowds are said to hang on his words in wonder.

Surely in Jesus there is something to admire.  But, of course, we can admire many people. Our admiration becomes adoration of Jesus because he is different from all the rest.  He spoke with wonder and delivered himself up to death on behalf of others.  Most of all, he rose from the dead to furnish the promise of what our souls most desire.  He promises us happiness, not for a moment or even a lifetime, but forever.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 5:1-10; Luke 19:41-44)

At the beginning of John’s Gospel, John the Baptist calls Jesus, “’the Lamb of God.’”  He is prophesying that Jesus will be slain as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity.  Nobody today sees lambs as fierce fighters.  But the Lamb of God conquered sin and death.  In today’s first reading the Lamb appears as the only one to accomplish another momentous feat.

The scene symbolizes a reenactment of Jesus’ victory over sin and death at the end of time.  The issue is who can open the scroll in the hand of God.  The scroll contains the narrative of how sin and death will be defeated.  The narrative cannot, however, proceed until the scroll is open.  The visionary John sheds tears when no one comes forth to do it because sin and death are wreaking havoc.  Finally, the spotless Lamb of God, takes the scroll.  He will initiate the campaign to finally annihilate evil.

The Book of Revelation was written to give Christians hope that God is still in control.  The author wanted to assure those suffering persecution that their rescue is near.  We too should find hope in the story.  Covid is still killing our loved ones.  By now the measures to stem the virus are becoming tiresome, for some even unsupportable.  But we know that Christ will see us through.  We only must keep faith in him. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

 (Revelation 4:1-11; Luke 19:11-28)

 Today’s gospel sounds much like last Sunday’s. It comes from the Gospel of Luke, however, and Sunday’s gospel came from the Gospel of Matthew.  The differences between the two help us understand something about the composition of the gospels as well as Jesus’ intention in this parable.

Luke’s shares with Matthew’s Jesus’ parable about the need for his followers to perform good works.  If they just sit on their hands in his absence like the servant who hides his master’s money, they will come to regret their inactivity.  On Jesus’ return at the end of time, they will lose all that was given to them.  In Matthew’s version of the parable the unproductive servant suffers damnation as well. In Luke those who suffer a worse fate than loss of money are they who do not want the noble master as their king.  This development of Luke is a reference to the Jews of Jerusalem who will refuse to recognize Jesus as Lord.  The Romans will destroy the city and kill many Jerusalemites later in the first century.

We see Christ as our king.  He protects us and helps us to realize our destiny as children of God.  He also commands us to build up one another with the talents that he has bestowed on us.  Faith in this vision and adherence to it will carry us to eternal life.  Disregard of it will lead us to the oblivion of death.

Tuesday, November 17, 2021

 Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious

(Revelation 1-6.14-22; Luke 19:1-10)

“The Hound of Heaven” is a long Victorian poem telling of God.  It pictures God as a bloodhound pursuing a rabbit.  God’s prey is the human person.  But He wishes no harm, only the person’s true benefit.  Often humans imagine themselves on a quest to find God.  But it is really God who searches out humans.  In today’s gospel Jesus gives us an example.

The passage begins with Zacchaeus trying to see Jesus.  By this point in the gospel Jesus has the fame of a rock star.  Crowds gather to see him as he makes his way toward Jerusalem.  Zacchaeus climbs a tree to get a view of the famous prophet.  Then the story changes dramatically.  Jesus calls Zacchaeus down from the tree.  All the while, he has been looking for Zacchaeus.

It sounds odd that God looks for us.  We know that we cannot hide from God.  But this is not the point.  We run away from him perhaps because what He promises is beyond what we think fair or even believable.  God wants to share His complete and eternal happiness with us.  He sends Jesus to find us.  Jesus will die to draw us to God.  He will rise to give us a glimpse of the happiness God has planned for us.

Monday, November 16, 2020

 Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 1:1-4.2:1-5; Luke 18:35-43)

The book of readings for mass is called the “lectionary.”  On most weekdays in Ordinary (non-festive nor penitential time) the lectionary presents a reading from the Old Testament or from a book of the New Testament other than a gospel and a passage from the gospel.  Since there is much in both the Old Testament and the non-gospel New Testament, the lectionary has one set of readings for even number years and one set for odd number years.

Today’s reading comes from the Book of Revelation.  Because Revelation is the last book of the New Testament, it is featured now as the liturgical year comes to an end.  Revelation tells the story of the Church under duress and of Jesus, the Lamb of God, rescuing it.  Today’s reading is preliminary to this cosmic struggle that is about to take place.  After praising the church in Ephesus for persevering in faith, it warns the same church that it must rekindle its love by works of charity.

We too, like the members of the church in Ephesus, may keep the faith but lose our care for others.  Faith justifies us, as St. Paul says.  Once justified, however, we are to do just works.  These are the works of love that we gladly did when we were young.  Young families in one parish make sandwiches for the needy.  Hopefully, its charity will increase, not diminish, over time to assist the needy in different ways.

Sunday, November 15, 2020


(Proverbs 31: 10-13.19-20.30-31; Thessalonians 5: 1-6; Matthew 25: 14-30)

Last month Pope Francis appeared again in the headlines. The newspapers reported that he already approves of gay marriages or, at least, "civil unions" between homosexuals. Supposedly he said so in a documentary made this year.

The news raised questions from many people. Promoters of the gay lifestyle wondered if the Church will change its condemnation of homosexual acts. Parents began to doubt what they taught their children. Some astute journalists had more pertinent questions. They wanted to know why the new documentary used recorded interviews made from last year for a different audience. They also questioned whether the pope really used the words "civil unions" or was talking about "civil coexistence." In ordinary parlance "civil union" refers to a state-recognized sexual relationship between two people of the same sex. The "civil coexistence" is a broader class of relationships between two people.

Pope Francis is not naive. He knows that the press often distorts his position. Perhaps for this reason he waited a while to respond to the concerns. He wanted to answer precisely to avoid further confusion. It is also not unusual for the Vatican to moderate the tenor of the debate by taking time to respond. It is saying, in effect, that the issues of sex are not the most important, much less the only ones that matter.

The response came through the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. It makes it clear that the pope believes that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. It follows that the Pope wants to reiterate the Church's concern for homosexuals: men and women with homosexual tendencies are human persons in need of family love. First, they need their fathers and mothers not to reject them as if they were undomesticated animals. Also, as adults they should not be deprived of the intimate trust of another person. In the interview made last year, the pope spoke of "a law of civil coexistence" to allow homosexual couples to speak for one another in the event, for example, of a medical emergency. He wanted to assure all people not married but living in the same house that they have the right, as he puts it, to "be legally covered."

The church has long supported the recognition of legal authorities whereby two people living together can share social benefits. But she insists that the scope of the law providing this recognition is not limited to people in a sexual relationship. The two people can be, for another example, a son living with his mother whom he wants covered in his health insurance policy. Presumably Pope Francis had this in mind when he spoke of "a law of civil coexistence."

The actions of Pope Francis provide testimony to the gospel we hear today. When Jesus tells of the man praising the behavior of the servants who invest his money, he is not promoting the stock market. Rather he is showing his disciples the need for charity. To be a Christian awaiting the coming of the Lord we have to do works of mercy. If we only wait sitting on our hands, we will be betraying Jesus who died for us. It is instructive that Pope Francis has the courage to declare himself in favor of people who are often despised, such as immigrants and homosexuals. He in no way wants to condone immorality. Rather, he is promoting the love of Jesus for the poor and outcasts.

In the Second Eucharistic Prayer, the priest asks God to bring the Church "to perfection through charity." Sometimes we miss this goal by not showing charity to different types of person. Pope Francis has taught us how to extend it to all. Hopefully all of us will hear him.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin

 (II John 4-9; Luke 17:26-37)

 “Don’t ask for whom the bells toll, it tolls for thee,” writes poet-priest John Donne. Of course, the bells he has in mind are the death toll.  Although many people prefer to put off thinking about it, the hour of life’s end is always approaching.  For those with seventy years behind them, it will surely be sooner rather than later.

Jesus makes the same point in the gospel today.  With an image that might chill a polar bear, he warns, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.”  He means that death is part of life because we have bodies which may one day be the food of worms or fire if not birds.  So, Jesus admonishes, humans should prepare for the inevitable.

 Jesus’ injunction to deal with mortality deserves more than passing attention.  Although it is certainly legitimate to stave off death through healthy living and medical practice, we need to give ourselves over to death in a sense by self-denial.  Jesus himself is our primary example.  He took up his cross not just in Jerusalem but throughout his public ministry.  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini serves as another model.  She gave up her country to follow Christ among immigrants in the United States.  Her work was prodigious as well as tireless.  We follow by her example by assisting those in need, by performing periodic penitential acts, and by praying constantly. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

 Memorial of Saint Josephat, Bishop and Martyr

(Philemon 7-20; Luke 17:17-25)

Considering how offensive it is to human dignity, we wonder why slavery was practiced for such a long time.  Only in the last two hundred and fifty years has slavery been delegalized.  Still today illegal slavery is practiced, especially of young girls in the sex trade and of young boy soldiers.  Almost two thousand years ago St. Paul pleaded on behalf of a slave to his master.  His message is recorded in today’s first reading, but it does not condemn slavery as we might expect.

Paul obviously finds slavery offensive, or he would not ask for the slave Onesimus’ freedom.  He likely sees slavery as a social evil that must be tolerated because it cannot be dismantled.  But for Paul in the Church slavery is of little consequence.  He writes in various places that in Christ “there is neither slave nor free person.”  That is, Christians are to love everyone so that the problematic master-slave relationship loses much of its aversion. Paul will even find a positive aspect to slavery when the master is truly beneficent.  Thus, he calls himself a “slave of Christ Jesus.”

We should take care not to slavishly bow to human authority.  Christ has enlightened us with the Holy Spirit.  We have to address specific issues with the general guidance of the Church and the grace from reflecting on the gospel.  Doins so, we will be acting in the freedom Christ won for us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop

(Titus 3:1-7; Luke 17:11-19)

Jesus’ encounter with the lepers in today’s gospel is reminiscent of St. Martin’s meeting a beggar.  Martin was a soldier in the Roman cavalry.  One day, mounted on a horse (at least in El Greco’s famous painting), he encountered a beggar along the road.  The beggar was dressed in rags, and it was winter.  Martin cut his cloak in two to share it with the beggar.  Shortly afterward, Martin resigned from the army.  He reasoned that he could no longer fight wars if he was to be a soldier of Christ.  

In the gospel one of the ten lepers whom Jesus heals returns to thank him.  No doubt, the beggar was likewise grateful to Martin for sharing his cloak.  But perhaps Martin was even more grateful than the man he helped.  In sharing his cloak with the poor man, Martin begins the process of conversion that leads to salvation.  The gospel demonstrates how the conversion is completed when the converted gives thanks to the Lord.

We likewise have encountered the Lord and been called to conversion.  The process may be painful as we are often set in compromising ways.  Some of us may be mired in a vice – pornography, drinking, cheating, or the like.  Some of us just regard ourselves too highly.  We pay little heed to the Lord’s command that we seek God’s will and not our own. Whatever is keeping us away from following Jesus, we will want to give it up.  Saints like Martin of Tours testify that we will not regret it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

 (Titus 2:1-8.11-14; Luke 17:7-10)

 John Allen reported for years on the Vatican for the National Catholic Reporter.  He knows what he is talking about.  He says that each cardinal feels a sense of relief after the election of a pope.  This feeling stems not from having accomplished the task at hand.  Rather the relief comes from knowing that he does not have to spend the rest of their lives under the pressure of the papal office.   It seems like the situation hasn’t changed much in the sixteen hundred years since St. Leo the Great was pope.

Leo lived in the turbulent time of barbarian invasions in Italy.  He had humbling encounters with two famous warriors, Atilla the Hun and Gaiseric, leader of the Vandals.  Leo also dealt with a doctrinal crisis.  He had to discipline an Egyptian abbot who denied the two natures of Christ with the emperor’s support.  St. Leo also preached wonderful sermons bringing some light to the mysteries of salvation.

In today’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples that they most be prepared to carry out his directives without expecting praise. We may not mind working for the Lord but often insist that our pastor or bishop duly thank us.  Jesus, however, finds such an expectation as avaricious.  He wants us to work for the kingdom believing that God will reward us as He sees fit.

Monday, November 9, 2020


Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

(Ezekiel 47:1-2.8-9.12; I Corinthians 3:9c-11.16-17; John 2:13-22)

A man enjoyed fishing. He liked it so much that he started going fishing on Sunday mornings.  One day his pastor confronted him about not attending church services.  The man tried to explain his reason.  He said that he prayed better in his boat on the water.  He said that he could give greater praise to God in the quiet of the lake.  He added that he there he felt profoundly thankful to God for the wonder of creation. 

It is true that nature can raise our minds to God.  But it cannot substitute for Sunday Eucharist in church.  The church is the designated place where we meet other Christians for communal prayer.  There we recognize ourselves as neither better nor more favored than the others present.  Indeed, we see ourselves as parts of a community consecrated to the Lord.  Also, a church contains symbols and images that remind us of our God who transcends space and time.  We are not as likely to begin worshipping creation more than the Creator in church.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.  It is the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the pope.  By attending to this celebration, we honor all churches.  We recognize that our salvation comes from our being incorporated in the People of God, which usually takes place in a church.  We also note that in church we reenact the supreme sacrifice of love.  Here we receive the Eucharist which defines us more than anything we can say or do on our own.

Sunday, November 8, 2020


(Wisdom 6: 12-16; I Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13)

This year there has been no lack of exhortation to be forward-thinking. Since March the entire world has been urged to clean their hands, maintain social distance, and wear a mask. These measures are insisted upon to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Because health is valued, we need to take care of ourselves in these and other ways. In the Gospel, Jesus exhorts his disciples to be foresighted with the parable of the ten virgins.  He does not have in mind the health of the body but that of the soul.

The parable warns us to prepare for the return of Jesus at the end of time. After almost two thousand years we wonder if Jesus is going to return. Some Christians say, "No", that the return refers to his resurrection from the dead. But we Catholic Christians look forward to his coming at the end of time, although we have no idea when it will happen. We note that the parable mentions a delay in the return.

We prepare for his coming by doing good works. The five virgins bring extra oil to keep their lamps burning if the husband is late. Lighted lamps are a symbol for good works. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples: "'Let your light shine before all, so that when they see your good works, they glorify your Father who is in heaven.'” With the parable of the virgins, Jesus tells the disciples that if they have not done many good works for others, they will be left out of the kingdom.

Visiting the sick has always been considered a good deed. Now with the pandemic, all the elderly are taken as sick in a sense. If they contract the Covid virus, they are in danger of death. Therefore, they have isolated themselves in their homes away from the bustle of people. However, by isolating themselves from their families and friends, the elderly often experience deep loneliness. It can be particularly depressing during the holidays. So we should think of ways to correspond with the elderly in November and December.

Of course, we want to attend to our own family members first. We should call them continuously if we cannot be with them in person. The other day the newspaper described the dilemma of a family whose mother lives in another town hundreds of miles distant. Usually the woman gets on a plane to spend Thanksgiving with her children and grandchildren. But this year not only the plane but also being in the midst of children run considerable risks. The family has to double their efforts to be with their mother virtually. In addition to communicating with Skype they can send you the traditional foods of the season.

But our charity has to extend beyond the family if our light will shine "before all." There are many lonely people in nursing homes, whether the homes are upscale or basic. Some of the elderly do not have children to visit them. In other cases the children have abandoned them. We find ways to comfort them even with Covid's restrictions.

Soon we will be asking each other if we are ready for Christmas. Of course, we will mean if we have bought gifts and decorated the Christmas tree. This year we will want to prepare for Christmas also by doing good works for the elderly, both relatives and those till strangers. We should think of Christmas as a rehearsal for the Lord's return at the end of time. We will be preparing for Jesus.

Friday, November 6, 2020

 Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

 (Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 16:1-8)

 Once an ecumenical group of pastors was discussing a gospel passage much like the one we read today.  The ministers were baffled at the obvious implication that people should help others out of self-interest.  Is love really the motivator, the ministers seemed to ask themselves, if one benefits from the action?

 The ministers were responding from the perspective of the influential Lutheran theologian, Anders Nygren.  Intolerant of self-love, Nygren drove a wedge between real love, which he termed agape or divine love, and acquisitive love, which Greek philosophers called eros.  According to Nygren, the latter has nothing to do with the former.  He would label any action falling short of selflessness as unworthy of Christian love.

But Nygren’s thesis does not adequately account for human motivation.  We are people with real needs.  Beyond physical necessities we need support and assurance which come to us when we go out to others.  It is not necessarily selfish to satisfy these needs.  What differentiates love from exploitation is concern for the good of everyone.  Jesus keeps this distinction in mind in today’s gospel parable. The crafty steward does not only act on his own behalf; he also reduces the burden of the indebted. Similarly, God takes notice and helps us when we help the poor.

Thursday, November 5, 2020


Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

(Philippians 3:3-8a; Luke 15:1-10)

Joe Fitzgerald played handball at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He had trained hard – seven days a week, twice a day except Sunday -- and became proficient.  He also quarterbacked his college football team.  He is handsome and evidently articulate.  Yet, like St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Philippians, despite these promising professional attributes, he decided to follow Christ. 

Paul is not ashamed to boast about his Jewish background.  He mentions his tribe, his observance, even his zeal in pursuing rivals of Judaism.  Then an encounter with Christ turned his life on end. Joe Fitzgerald mentioned in an interview that he had been living in a way that was not pleasing to God.  Knowing that being lukewarm was not an option, he decided to enter the seminary. At the time of the interview, years after he was ordained, he said he was “very happy” as a priest.  Paul is even more upbeat.  He writes that he considers every trait and accomplishment as a loss in comparison to knowing Christ Jesus.

We too know him.  Perhaps we do not experience Paul’s euphoria because we listen to him with our ears waxed and our vision filtered.  We may spend too much time following the news and not enough attending to the gospel.  There he repeatedly tells us how much he loves us.  He tells us today that he would risk everything to find us.  There is no reason to be disturbed by news reports if we just trust in him.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

 Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, bishop

(Philippians 2:12-28; Luke 14:25-33)

When Jesus says that people must hate their parents in order to follow him, his command must be contextualized.  The Aramaic language, which he spoke, uses “hate” as a way of saying “not love as much.”  In other words, Jesus is telling his disciples that they must love him more than their parents.  Today’s patron, Charles Borromeo, understood what Jesus meant.  He came from some of the most prominent families in Italy.  Yet when his father, Count Borromeo died, Charles declined the headship of his family.  He became a priest and was soon made bishop of Milan.

As a young bishop, Borromeo faced the challenge of the bubonic plague of 1576.  Rather than leave Milan with the city officials, he stayed behind to organize his clergy and religious in the relief effort.  He also personally administered to the sick.   Like bishops have done in the pandemic this year, Charles made the difficult decision to close churches to avoid spread of the disease.

In order to follow Jesus, we must not hate anybody.  On the contrary, we must love all – even those with whom we feel uncomfortable.  This can be a difficult task as is accepting people with different ideas about the danger of Covid.  It helps to talk with the people and to pray for them.  While we are at it, we might ask God to make us closer followers of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

 (Optional) Memorial of Saint Martin de Porres, religious

(Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 14:15-24)

Today, both the Feast of St. Martin de Porres and Election Day, we wonder if there is something in common between the two.  Does the life of St. Martin inform us of how to vote?  What would St. Martin make of the candidates now running for office? 

In one sense Martin de Porres had nothing to do with politics.  By necessity, he was apolitical. As an African American in a society ruled by Spanish colonists, he would not be considered eligible to hold a public office or, as much as there were elections, to vote.  Yet he might have made an excellent public servant because he cared so much about people.  He treated everyone well but gave particular attention to the needy.  He probably would have found candidates who took time to talk with common people as most worthy of public office.

But in the end, Martin would probably not have given much attention to elections, much less lived and died over them.  He spent long hours in prayer because he knew that God is in control of creation.  Instinctively, he would have realized that legislators have limited capacity to effect positive change. He would have prayed, “Thy kingdom come,” and then worked to make that happen. He knew that it was his role, as it is for most of us, is to help others with kinds words and charitable deeds. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day)

(Wisdom 3:1-9; Romans 5:5-11; John 6:37-40)

Life for us who know Christ may be thought of as a pilgrimage.  We are destined for the sanctuary where our Lord abides. On the way we meet many other pilgrims whose company we enjoy for a while.  Then they depart from us into the night that surrounds the pilgrimage.  We will meet other fellow-travelers with whom we also pray and sing until finally it is our turn to depart from the pilgrimage.

Where do the pilgrims who drop out of the procession go?  Do they find a shortcut to the sanctuary at the pilgrimage’s end?  Or are they lost in oblivion? Some of these possessed virtues that shined like torches to light their way.  Others, to the contrary, had hidden faults that caused them to stumble.  They were too quickly embittered with life’s vicissitudes.  Or they gave into the temptations of the flesh. 

It is for these departed pilgrims, whom we will someday join, that we pray today.  We ask God to forgive them their transgressions so that they may reach the journey’s end.  We also pray for newcomers to  the pilgrimage.  We want them to be faithful and perhaps to pray for us when we depart into the night.